On Limiting the Domain of Inequality: The Legacy of James Tobin
The Keynesian macroeconomist James Tobin presented an ambitious program for social policy, sketched in the titles of "It Can be Done! Conquering Poverty in the US by 1976" (1967), "On Limiting the Domain of Inequality" (1970), "On Improving the Economic Status of the Negro" (1965), and "Raising the Incomes of the Poor" (1968). Tobin advocated means-tested cash transfers (negative income tax), to reduce poverty without interfering with market determination of relative prices (a position shared with Milton Friedman), paired with "non-market egalitarian distributions of commodities essential to life and citizenship" (education, food stamps, basic housing). The latter position contrasted with Friedman's Chicago school approach. Tobin's message continues to be relevant for reduction of poverty and inequality. Tobin's approach is contrasted with the neo-conservative analysis of the causes of poverty (exemplified by Herrnstein and Murray, but going back to Senior and Chadwick's Poor Law Report of 1834) that has been reflected in "the end of welfare as we know it".
Volume (Year): 29 (2003)
Issue (Month): 4 (Fall)
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